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Content marketing and optimization are crucial parts of any respectable online marketing strategy. Without content, how does your target audience know who you are and what you’re offering them? Without content optimization, how do you expect that audience to notice you at all?
For my team at Tao Digital Marketing, our work with AFG Law goes to show that results can be achieved by focusing on creating the right content for the right audience. In this case, we saw:
Leads increase from 306 to 840 (174%)
Increased impressions from 1.44m to 3.57m (148%)
Increased clicks from 17.5k to 55.5k (217%)
Clicks on top page increase from 8,549 to 30,419 (255%)
By making strategic changes at the right time and focusing our efforts on optimization, we generated these positive results — and so can you!
The objective of any SEO work is ultimately all the same: to increase leads and generate sales.
We wanted to improve the customer journey through the sales funnel, all the way from “reach” (through pieces of content that would help potential clients), down to engaging with AFG Law by contacting them for legal assistance.
When we first spoke to the client, we discovered that the only way they were tracking leads was by verbally asking customers how they found out about them, which they would then enter into a CRM system. To address this gap, we wanted to provide tangible evidence that would help them see exactly where the customers were coming from, and the journey they took along the site.
We took AFG on as a client in April 2020, but naturally, results started to pick up from July 2020 as Google started to crawl the site more regularly. In this case study, we’ll be focusing on comparing July-December 2020 and March-September 2021 to give a fair six month representation of both years.
Our targets/KPIs for 2021 were as follows:
More than double leads from 306 to 650
More than double clicks from 17.5k to 40k
Technically optimize the site
Be able to clearly demonstrate the customer journey
The target audience was people who required the services of solicitors, so we wanted to provide answers to questions they may be searching for in blogs, as well as service pages appearing for those who needed legal assistance as soon as possible.
Law can be a complicated subject to understand, so it was important to really break down the chosen topics in a lot of detail. Our strategy focused heavily on content creation alongside technical changes that would support the performance of the content.
Step 1: Cross-analyze content data
The first steps we took included creating three audits:
1. Content audit
We create this using the Google Search Console KPI on Screaming Frog. This allows us to see current topics on the site and identify any thin or irrelevant content that could be deleted or noindexed. We can then review full URLs, word counts, clicks, and overall CTR.
Our tech team then orders the topics depending on how useful they would be to the client, such as focus keywords, search volumes, relevancy to client, seasonal data, time sensitive information, long tail or short tail keywords, etc. This can help to speed up the ideation process and focus on quick wins.
2. Content gap analysis
This can be done by using tools like Moz Pro’s True Competitor and also by manually searching through competitor’s sites to find topic areas you don’t cover. You can then find new areas in which to create content.
3. Competitor audit
This can also be done using tools and manual checks, as even after the above two audits, you can still miss little gems of data that can help with ideation.
In our case, after taking time to thoroughly review these audits for AFG, content ideas were then reviewed and researched by our content writer, moving onto our next step. Any content that may have been holding the site back from a technical perspective was handed over to our tech SEO experts, which is explained further in strategy point four.
Step 2: Create the content
After reviewing data from the audits, our content writer created and researched ideas. They looked to see if there were topics that AFG were lacking strong content for in the content audit and gap analysis, then checked if competitors were talking about them as well (or if they weren’t — that can be good news too, depending on the client and topic).
From there, they pulled together ideas for new blog posts, pages, and other content, and for optimizing existing content (for example, if AFG poorly mentioned a keyword that we highlighted as a good area of focus in the spreadsheet). They then carried out the usual checks:
Researching within Google Search Console (GSC) to see if existing pages were ranking for certain terms. For pages we planned on updating, we checked what the page was initially ranking for, and what elements needed keeping in and what needed adding. We also looked at what queries were ranking.
After this, “skeleton documents” are created, which detail the URL, meta description, keyword(s), as well as frequently asked questions, which can be found through Moz, the SERP, GSC and Answer the Public.
In November 2020, we uploaded a “Guide to Common Assault, ABH and GBH”, answering the huge variety of questions we found through our research. The popularity of this piece absolutely soared and gained 28,000 clicks, with an average of 2.2K clicks per month.
The piece also ranked for 691 keywords, and ranked at position one for “common assault charge uk”. As we added FAQ schema to the page, it also appeared in the featured snippet for the key phrase, too. It received over half of the clicks (56%) for “common assault”.
The success of this piece is largely down to answering a large number of questions — 24 to be exact. As we mentioned, law is a complicated subject, so it’s vital that any potential clients can get their answers on AFG’s site, then follow the call to actions placed throughout to access further assistance. Clear, natural CTAs were really important, not only to conclude the articles, but also to encourage readers to use AFG’s services. Check out the example below to see how we tied one into a commonly asked question:
We also included contact forms on popular and newer pieces to make the contacting process as smooth as possible. As you can see from the Thrive graph below, this has been very successful since we implemented the process eight months ago:
One thing to note: In October 2021, AFG decided to remove and redirect all pages regarding criminal law, including the common assault guide, as the criminal department is closing for new instructions.
Another topic that has been hugely successful is probate. We noticed that there were a large number of searches around “probate meaning uk”, and “what does probate mean uk”, which to us, suggested there was a lack of UK resources around this topic.
We then created an in-depth guide to UK probate law. As it is such a complex area of law, this gave us the opportunity to really elaborate and give users the answers they were looking for.
This has become AFG’s second most-viewed page (after the common assault guide), ranking position one for “probate meaning uk” and other related terms. The piece ranks for 278 keywords and gets around 800 clicks per month, gaining 51% of clicks for the term “probate meaning uk”.
Step 3: Analyze and review content
Creating great content is one thing, but tracking and tweaking content along the way is a whole other untapped source of information that many agencies just don’t have the time or resources for. We do this on a monthly basis as part of both research and client reporting. Each client receives 24/7 access to a live spreadsheet of work undertaken, as well as a monthly video report going into detail about the success of certain pieces of content, amongst other work.
Google Search Console is one of the most useful tools for us when it comes to tracking the performance of live content. We usually give content time to be indexed and to gain traction before going back to it — this can be anything from six weeks to six months. Once a piece of content starts to perform, we’ll analyze the data in GSC.
Take the aforementioned probate guide, for example. We covered a significant range of topics and queries to ensure that the guide was thorough. Even so, there will naturally be some questions we failed to answer. This is mainly because in our initial research, we take the most popular, topically relevant and applicable questions to discuss and answer within our guides to ensure that we meet the target intent.
GSC will tell us what queries and keywords the guide is ranking for. For this, we looked into the data and saw an interesting query: “What is a Personal Representative?”. We’d mentioned this keyword in the content but, at the time, it didn’t feel necessary to explain it in its own section within the content. It was still ranking, however, due to it being contextually relevant and briefly mentioned.
After reviewing the term, understanding the search volume and relevancy to the content, we decided to add this to the guide as a standalone query. This meant that, although we were actually ranking for this term beforehand, we can now meet the search intent in more depth, providing much more useful information for those searching for that specific keyword and capitalizing on that search volume.
From a technical and psychological perspective, we look at heat mapping through Lucky Orange, which provides real-time data across a range of months.
Step 4: Implement technical SEO
Tweaks that support technical SEO are perhaps some of the most important changes we made alongside content optimization to see real results. A technical SEO audit was undertaken alongside the content audits to provide direction. The site was unsecured when we first gained access, so there were a lot of fundamental updates to make.
1. Noindexing and deleting content
There was a huge amount of content already existing on the site, but not all of it was bringing in traffic, and was actually harming the site by exhausting crawl budget.
AFG participates actively within the community and were writing many, many blogs, which was great for their brand and nice for their existing connections to read, but wasn’t going to bring in leads. We decided to noindex or delete a lot of these pages due to very low traffic and low rankings. This was done for close to 1,000 pages.
Usually, we would redirect these URLs, but since they had no traffic we did not on this occasion. These decisions were made using the data from the content audit.
2. Addressing redirects
The problem with many of AFG’s URLS was that they were far too long and didn’t include the keyword the page was aiming to rank for, so we changed several URLs and created 301 redirects from the old URLs. There were also a number of 404 errors that needed to be addressed and changed to 301 redirects.
3. Technically optimizing content
There were several pages that featured multiple H1s, an issue that needed rectifying as soon as possible. We manually went through these and changed them to appropriate H1s, H2s and H3s.
Page titles were also optimized to include keywords and company name, as well as meta descriptions, which were edited to under 155 characters.
FAQ schema was added to service pages that answered frequently asked questions as well as top performing pages, such as the common assault and probate guides.
In order to convert as many site visitors as possible, we also installed a Thrive Leads exit intent popup that appeared when a user was navigating off the page. This is used as a last resort to keep people on the site and to encourage them to get in touch, especially if they’re on a page without a contact form.
4. Making use of internal and external links
Building both internal and external links has been vital in improving AFG’s domain authority from 18 to 24. Internal linking was especially important as some vital pages were several clicks deep and not easily navigated to, so we used a combination of “Site:afg.co.uk [relevant term]” to find pages with similar topics that could be linked to, in addition to the Link Whisper software.
We also built links through answering PR requests (HARO, Response Source and #journorequest on Twitter) and guest blogging. It was important for us to build links to key pages, and to pay attention to natural anchor text that flowed within the content, rather than standing out as an obvious link.
Results compared to objectives
We exceeded this goal by increasing leads gained from 306 in 2020 to 840 in 2021, a 174% increase. This comes as a result of creating useful content, adding various contact forms on the page, as well as the exit intent form.
We exceeded this goal by increasing clicks to 55.5K, 217% of the original number. This comes as a result of various changes we made, such as creating highly relevant content that matches the user’s search intent, optimizing page titles and metas, and implementing FAQ schema.
In 2020, the top page was the homepage, which gained 8,549 clicks between July-December. This year, the common assault guide was the top page, which gained 30,419 clicks between March-September 2021, meaning we have increased clicks to the top page by 255%.
Technically optimize the site
Although this is not as tangible as the other goals, the results can certainly be seen in the increase in clicks, impressions, and traffic. Changes such as shortening and optimizing URLs, addressing redirects, and link building worked in harmony with content creation.
Clearly demonstrate the customer journey
In September 2020, we connected AFG’s site to What Converts, a lead tracking software. This creates a unique custom phone number for visitors on the site so that the software can record exactly what page resulted in a call. It also tracks general form fills from the site.
As you can see in the image below, calls are the much-preferred contact method of AFG’s clients, taking up 1,025 of the 1,229 leads (83%) since we connected the site to the software. The rest came through contact forms from various different pages on the site.
The software also breaks down the exact page the customer came from, as well as where in the world they are based, pictured below. Naturally, most leads came through the contact page.
Thanks to more than exceeding our set KPI goals, AFG have been very pleased with our work and Director Anita Boardman the following to say:
“For years, we’ve been looking for a company to carry out the work Tao Digital have done for us, and be able to clearly demonstrate the customer journey as well as some fantastic results. We’re extremely pleased with the hard work carried out and have been able to grow our business further as a result of this work.”
Have you tried similar strategies? Have any suggestions for this process? Let me know in the Moz Q&A or on Twitter @LydiaGerman1!